Who ate my chocolates? I am sure I had half of it left…or was it four blocks? Who ate my chocolates? Or, was it I that ate my chocolates? Or, what ate my chocolates? Have you ever had to ask all these questions? When you can even taste the aftermath of chocolate lingering in your mouth. You know that there were still some chocolates left. However, you still cannot tell…who ate your chocolates? Let’s not forget to add “why” did the “who” eat my chocolates? Or was it I that ate my chocolates? Why do I feel so strange? Is it because I ate the chocolates…and I ate it all?
When I reflect on the happenings in the world in the last year, it sometimes feels like there was a shift in gear and we were all transported to another planet in no time. The Corona pandemic has changed our lives forever. It has shaken us and we have had to look in the daunting eyes of loss so many times in the months that have passed. As a collective, the human race has lost so much, and the notion of individuality was severely challenged. We came to the realization that we are not so individual as we might have thought. If one just thinks of how easy the Corona virus can spread, we understand the impact on the collective and we have all witnessed the consequences. Now unlike the sweet, lingering taste of chocolate in the aftermath, the bitter aftertaste of loss still lingers in our mouths.
We see and experience this especially when we start questioning the aftertaste of the loss: Why did I hug someone? Why did I have to go to the shop? Who did I get the Corona virus from? Who did I give the Corona virus to? Why can I not visit my ill friend or relative? Why did our loved ones die? Why did I not die? Why am I still alive?
In this endless list of “who’s” and “why’s”, a faithful friend called SURVIVOR GUILT is born. Faithful, because it is not so easy to let go of this friend when it is time to say goodbye. Faithful because this friend called survivor guilt returns many times. For some, it may be easier to work with the acceptance and move on, but for many, this seems to be a great difficulty because friends are close and remain faithful. The suffering happens in silence and complex grief sets in. There is a constant nagging feeling that you have done something wrong for merely surviving something tragic. At this point there is the realization that there is no sweet aftertaste like the chocolate and smiles when looking for the missing chocolates. Mental health professionals caution that if survivor guilt is not managed effectively, it could lead to anxiety, depression and PTSD.
Experts in the field share the following useful tips on how to deal with survivor’s guilt:
- Give yourself permission to feel and express your emotions
- Challenge the impulse to withdraw. Access support from others – family, friends, colleagues etc.
- Instead of asking “Why me?” try “Why not me?”
- Explore ways to express gratitude or do something good for others
- Practice being kind to yourself – be gentle with yourself
- Use compassionate self-talk and prioritize self-care
- Seek support from a mental health professional if you start to experience suicidal thoughts or feel that you need to learn more constructive coping techniques.
As we look with hopeful eyes at the horizon to introduce a new dawn and an end to the pandemic, we take comfort in knowing that although our individuality was challenged, the collective became united to fight the pandemic and reach the shores of safety after the storm. There is still a long way to go. Many chocolates still to be eaten…many “who’s” and “why’s” … and the ultimate knowing that I am not alone.